Interview: Jesse Reklaw  »

Since 1995, Jesse Reklaw has been publishing his comic strip Slow Wave online and in syndication. He adapts reader-submitted dreams into the comic strip format, with often bizarre yet familiar results. The Night of Your Life, released last year, is a hardcover collection of these dream comics, and makes a great gift! He has been nominated for the Ignatz award five times, and won it in 2008 for his fantasy-themed minicomic, Bluefuzz the Hero. Jesse has also recently completed a year-long experiment in a daily diary comic, which is available in its entirety on Flickr, and also as a set of minicomics self-reproachingly entitled Ten Thousand Things to Do. Once you read it and understand that Jesse also teaches, paints rad watercolors, participates in art shows, and plays in a band called Fun Yeti, that title begins to make a little bit more sense.

How long have you been vegan?
Since 1991… 18 years I guess?!?!! I’m old…

Are you vegan for health, environmental, animal rights reasons, or a combination?
All those and more. If there’s a vegan gene, I think I have it. Whenever someone asks me why I’m vegan, I just think: “Why aren’t YOU vegan?” But I don’t say anything. It makes so much sense for me, but I don’t know if I can articulate it to others.

Do you ever include a vegan message in your comics?
Not directly. I can’t help but include in my comics extensions of my personal philosophy, which does extend to veganism, but that also includes a hefty dose of cynicism. I just don’t have it in me to be an evangelist.

What’s your favorite animal?
Humans? I dunno. I regularly have nightmares about being torn apart by bears, so i guess they don’t make the top of my list. Cats (small cats) are pretty great. I like their independence, playfulness, and intense love. Cows seem really sweet too, but I haven’t spent a lot of time with them.

Favorite vegan food to make?
Salad! Lettuce, toasted pumpkin seeds or almonds, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, and anything else available that looks good. I dress it with the juice of one lime, a few squirts of flax oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Favorite vegan dish at a restaurant/fave vegan restaurant?
Portland has some great southern vegan cooking, which I’d never had before moving here three years ago. The vegan “fish and chips” (battered and fired tofu steak with french fries and dipping sauce) at the Vita Cafe is pretty addictive.

Based on food options alone, which is your favorite comics show to travel to?
Staying home in Portland for the Stumptown Comics Fest!

Any eating tips for traveling cartoonists?
Bring snacks, especially if you’re going to be in transit, on a road trip, or at an airport for a long time. I usually bring some Luna Bars (or something like that) and a bag of toasted almonds mixed with raisins or dates.

Do you have one drawing tip to share?
Draw every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. The next time you sit down to draw, everything will be easier. Drawing is like working out or stretching for an athlete. If you skip a few days (or a week, or a month), it hurts, and it’s hard to get back into the routine.

What’s one thing about making comics that you’re really good at?
Being overconfident, screwing up royally, and learning everything backwards.

Do you have a day job, or do you draw comics full-time? If not, why not?
I wish i could draw comics full-time, or at least half the time, and spend the rest of the week relaxing my back and hand pains. I guess I draw comics about 10–15 hours a week. I teach a little and do various illustration jobs to make ends meet. (There’s no time left to deal with the pains.)

Do you ever get dreams submissions for Slow Wave that you’re morally opposed to drawing? Like a hunter dreaming about killing Bambi, or someone winning one of those contests where they eat a ten-pound hamburger and it’s free?
Sometimes i get some dreams that sort of make fun of vegetarianism, or some other -ism that I’m fond of. But if the dream is really, really funny and makes a good point that challenges my ideas and helps me be more balanced and compassionate, then I enjoy drawing it. (Usually people that disagree with me aren’t funny or smart though. Ha ha! Kidding!)

What inspired Bluefuzz?
I’m not totally sure. I think the love of fantasy that i scraped out of my brain-pan around age 18 left a little mold spore that blossomed over the years into a post-modern fantasy world that, despite my justifying it as a parody, is basically a fantasy romp.

Will Bluefuzz have further adventures?
I keep writing little 6–8 page stories or writing gags that I either submit to magazines or else save up for a larger story later. I’m not sure exactly what form it will eventually take, but there will be something. Right now I’m trying to focus and finish the other two stories I’ve been working on for the past five years.

Did doing the diary strip changed the way you look at things? Like do you notice the inexorable passage of time more, or something? Or has it made you realize things about yourself that maybe you didn’t notice before?
The diary strip was great for working out some concerns I had about representing myself in autobiography. I got to try out various ideas, see what worked, and what didn’t. Otherwise it was kind of a time-sink. It did make me happier to finish something every day though. Or at least have something to do when I was feeling dull and listless. I’m already too old to notice the inexorable passage of time.

Tell us about all your cute pets! It seems like Littles is your favorite. How do you think  Smokey feels about that?
We have two cats we adopted as adults from the Oregon Humane Society: Smokey (8-year-old, shy male) and Littles (6-year-old, dominant female). Littles doesn’t need to feel like she’s the favorite, she just assumes she is. Smokey needs lots of special attention, and sometimes needs for Littles to be locked in another room so he can get attention without being jealously attacked. I also like to pet all the awesome cats in my neighborhood, but I try to keep that a secret from our cats at home.

What exciting upcoming projects can we look forward to? Because we do look forward to them.
I’ve been working on a 180+ page comics memoir called Couch Tag since 2005. I finally found a publisher for it (Fantagraphics books in Seattle), and it should be out in late 2010 or 2011. I’m pretty excited. I have hecka work to do in the next six months though. In the meantime, I might try to sucker someone into publishing my 365-page comics diary, Ten Thousand Things to Do.

Any questions for Vegansaurus? Anything!
Why don’t more restaurants in SF/Oakland/Berkeley have a vegan option (or two)?

I wish I knew! Obviously the Bay Area just isn’t awesome like Portland is.

You can buy Jesse’s comics and art at his website, or on Amazon. Thanks, Jesse!

Photo of Jesse Reklaw by Nate Beaty.

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